Chicago Tribune: Orland Park considers new ways to help businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic

Reducing or waiving fees on things such as business and liquor licenses are being considered by Orland Park officials to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trustees are considering tapping more funds set aside for an economic development loan program that had few takers among village businesses.

Earlier this year, the board approved incentives such as short-term sharing of sales tax revenue with small businesses as well as a Shop Orland Park gift card program. Money that had been earmarked for the business loan program, established in 1987, was used for those incentives.

Orland Park has so far paid out $109,000 in sales tax money to 111 businesses, excluding larger tax-sharing agreements with businesses such as Pete’s Fresh Market and Angelo Caputo’s Fresh Market, two grocers coming to the village.

The Shop Orland Park program offered Visa gift cards for purchases at stores and car dealerships, and the village paid about $157,000 through that program.

[Most read] Second stimulus check updates: Push for $2,000 checks appears dead in Senate after Mitch McConnell adds poison pills »

A similar incentive, Dine Orland Park, continues through the end of this year and also offers Visa gift cards to customers who spend at least $100 at restaurants.

It’s anticipated the village will still have about $360,000 from the loan program available once restaurant customers redeem their Dine Orland Park cards, village manager George Koczwara said.

Trustees rejected a proposal to use the leftover money to make direct loans to businesses, noting there are some 3,000 businesses in the village.

“How do we decide who qualifies for these loans?” Trustee Michael Milani asked during the meeting. “I don’t want the village to be in the business of judging who gets money.”

The village anticipates revenue from restaurant liquor licenses will generate $175,000 next year, and waiving license fees or reducing them by 10% are among options considered. The license fees range from $260 to $1,660, Koczwara said.

Business license fees are anticipated to generate $230,000 in revenue. The Village Board is expected to consider Dec. 21 options such as waiving or reducing license fees, which range from $30 to $1,125 annually.

A 10% cut in fees was viewed by some trustees as not offering much help.

“I would like to see it a little higher than 10%,” Milani said. “It’s been tough for a lot of people out there.”

Trustees split on whether to advance a possible villagewide mask mandate.

Trustee Dan Calandriello had proposed trustees discuss something that might mirror action taken recently by New Lenox trustees.

[Most read] Illinois is reinstating federal jobless aid programs as part of a $900B pandemic relief package. Here’s what to know. »

Officials there voted Nov. 23 to make failure to wear a mask inside a business a misdemeanor disorderly conduct offense. The ordinance took effect Dec. 1 and establishes a minimum $100 fine for violations.

Trustees Milani, Cynthia Katsenes and William Healy along with Mayor Keith Pekau voted against bringing a mask mandate up for consideration, with Calandriello and Trustees James Dodge and Kathy Fenton voting in favor of more discussion.

New Lenox officials, in approving that community’s mask mandate, said they didn’t expect village police to actively go after violators, but said having the ordinance in place gives business owners more authority in requiring customers to wear masks.

However, Pekau and some Orland Park trustees said they did not want to possibly have police having to respond to calls for mask ordinance violations.

“We know there is a vaccine coming out,” the mayor said. “The last thing I’m going to support is arresting or ticketing people.”

Health food incentive

Trustees approved a sales tax sharing agreement with the operators of Clean Eatz, a franchise that focuses on health food options.

Village resident Michael Smith plans to invest about $390,000 to remodel existing space at 15892 S. LaGrange Road, and the inducement agreement requires that work begin by next Feb. 1.

The village would return a maximum of $113,000 to the business for up to 10 years.

Read the original article, published by Mike Nolan, here.